Monthly Archives: May 2014

2014/05/31 (S) End of May

We were both finally feeling well enough to go to our ham radio club breakfast this morning in South Lyon.  We picked up a graduation card at the drug store on the way home and had a quiet late morning and early afternoon that included a light lunch and a nap.  Linda had made a spread earlier from leftover lentils, chilled it, and served it on slices of Italian bread for lunch.

Nickolas, the son of my long-time friend and colleague Kristine, recently graduated from Central Michigan University with a double bachelor’s degree in psychology and family studies.  Today was the backyard party to celebrate this wonderful accomplishment.  Kristine and I first met as doctoral students in the late 1990’s, so Linda and I have watched Nickolas grow up and blossom into a very cool young adult.

On the way home we detoured to downtown Brighton to walk around, absorb the Saturday night Brighton “vibe,” and scope out restaurants for a Tuesday get-together with Kate.  On a Friday or Saturday evening this time of year Downtown Brighton is alive with people, especially if the weather is pleasant.  We photographed various restaurants that looked interesting so we could remember their names once we got home and research their menu options and prices.  We decided to try The Pound, assuming that choice is OK with Kate, based on a couple of interesting full-meal salads and $2 Tuesday appetizers and beers.  They have an open air covered roof deck.  We will try to sit there if the weather is agreeable and seating is available.

Linda has the Amazon Video app on her iPad and we watched Season 1, Episode 2 of Doc Martin.  We (I) “discovered” Doc Martin while we were in Florida and had a good OTA TV signal from the University of Florida Gainesville PBS station.  The series has completed at least six seasons of eight episodes each, so it will take us a while to watch the whole thing, if we ever do.


2014/05/30 (F) Outlook Contacts

I have had a Palm PDA for most of the last 13 years, and for most of that time it has been a Palm Tungsten T3.  While I was still working at Wayne RESA it was synced to their GroupWise e-mail and calendar system but also synced to the Palm Desktop software on my laptop for Contacts and Tasks and my Passwords Plus program.  I did not use the Tasks list much, but I did keep all of my personal contacts, and some of my business contacts, on the Palm along with all of my encrypted passwords.  Linda also had a Palm PDA for a while and had it synced to Outlook on her office computer.  Her PDA quit working years ago and never got replaced.  Once she was settled in at the bakery she did not have a need for a PDA.

When I retired I reverted back to using the Palm calendar, which I always liked.  I even installed a new Lithium Ion battery, which was no easy job, to prolong the unit’s life.  But three things have converged to finally spell the end of the Palm era for me: 1) the unrecoverable failure of the Passwords Plus app on the Tungsten T3;  2) the porting of our home Outlook Express information into Outlook 2007 after the loss of our e-mail address, and;  3) getting a new laptop computer due to the end of support for Windows XP.

Over the winter we were able to purchase an updated version of Passwords Plus (CS 2.0) that synced through the cloud.  Versions were available that ran on our iPads, Linda’s Samsung laptop, and my then current Win XP Dell laptop.  It is also available for Android (I think) but so far we have not installed it on our phones.  The new PWP apps allowed us to successfully migrate all of our passwords from the old Palm version and make them available on four devices with back-up and synchronization via the DataViz cloud servers.  Just this past week I installed PWP CS 2.0 on my new Win 8.1 machine and got it synced with the other four.  When the passwords are available and secure, life is good.

When we moved from the previous house to the current house last year we lost our long-time home e-mail address.  I took that as an opportunity to export our home address book and all of our personal e-mails from Outlook Express and import them into Outlook 2007 on my Win XP Dell laptop.  Since that time I have continued to build out the address book with contact information, but I still have and use my Palm Contacts.  Yesterday I learned that I could export my Palm contacts in a vCard (.vcf) format.  Further research suggested that I could convert the file to a comma separated value  (.csv) format and then import it into Outlook 2013 on my new laptop.  It would be a lot more work than it sounds as the vcf –> csv conversion would require me to review each entry, but it would still be a lot less work than re-entering everything by hand.

I figured I would need the better part of a long day to accomplish this task, so before rushing into it I decided to do more research.  Today I discovered that there are add-ins available for Outlook that will take my single .vcf Palm output file and import it into Outlook directly, as long as I am willing to pony up the $$.  The idea of spending $20 -$25 for a program I will use once does not sit well with me, but the idea of sitting all day reviewing entries one at a time does not sit well with me either.  If I want to clean up duplicates, I can do that semi-automatically for another $25.  I’m thinking about it.

The calendar is another matter.  The Palm calendar can be “archived” but not exported.  My Palm calendar goes back at least a decade, and this history may just have to remain in the Palm Desktop on the old laptop.  On the upside, once I start using the Outlook calendar I may be able to set it up so I can access the address book and calendar on my Android phone.  That would be nice; I have long enjoyed having my contacts and calendar information “in my pocket,” or “on my belt,” depending on my clothing choices that day.

It was yet another beautiful day today; when Michigan weather is nice, it’s the best.  Linda decided to do some weeding in the front planting beds and I decided to install the new rear-view mirror on the bus.  You just can’t let a day like this go by without doing something outside.  After a little break we decided to work in the back yard.  We had several large pine trees that had large limbs broken over the winter.  I used our pole saw to cut those loose and dragged them over near an old burn pile.  I cut the small branches off, cut up the larger central limbs, and made a pile.  We gathered up some of the dried grass clippings from Tuesday and stuffed them under the limbs and twigs.  We added a few old, large logs to the pile that were laying around in the yard and soaked everything in diesel fuel.  Forget gasoline and charcoal starter fluid; let the diesel fuel soak in (it does not evaporate like gasoline) and put a match to it.  You will get a sustained fire.

After the fire had burned down to a smolder we moved some of the blocks from the rear retaining walls and laid them around the burn pile.  We’ve decided to use some of them to build a fire pit and wanted to see how many it would take to make a circle of the appropriate size.  We plan to build the pit 2 or 3 courses high on the low side.

Kimber, from GM Construction LLC (GM Decks), called to let me know that Gary had taken ill and would not make it out to the house late this afternoon to discuss our pole barn project.  We will try again next week.  Village Landscape Development also did not show up or call today.  I will give Steve a call tomorrow and suggest that we set a firm start date for Monday June 16.

The afternoon mail brought a Jury Summons for Linda for a two week commitment for U. S. District Court in Flint, Michigan starting Monday, June 30.  That interferes with some travel plans we have and will now likely have to adjust.  She won’t be able to find out if she needs to report on the 30th until 5 PM on Friday the 27th.


2014/05/26 (M) Memorial Day

This is what I think about on Memorial Day.  For most Americans Memorial Day, or rather the Memorial Day weekend, marks the beginning of the summer “play” season; time to prep the cottage or the get the RV out of storage, get out the summer “toys”, attend summer camps (or summer school), and take vacations.  It has a much more serious and official meaning, of course, which is to remember those who served and died in the defense of our country while on active duty.  It is not necessarily a day to honor “all” veterans, although it seems to have turned into that.  We have another holiday for that purpose; it’s called Veteran’s Day.

Regardless, there is no doubt that each citizen owes the existence of our nation, and the freedoms we enjoy within it, to those who served to build it and defend it, and especially those who paid the ultimate price.  It a shame that some of those lives were wasted in the name of foolish nationalism, but the shame is not the soldier’s, it is the government’s.  And the government is merely a political manifestation of the will of the majority.  In our system the majority rules (or is supposed to) but that does not always make its actions right.  Those who served did so with a sense of duty without which we could not have a functioning military.  My father survived the invasion of Normandy on D-Day.  He was one of the troops who took Omaha Beach.  His unit suffered 90% casualties.  He was barely 19 years old at the time.  He was wounded on the drive inland through France and received the Purple Heart and almost 50 years later a unit commendation for the service his unit rendered that day and in the days that followed.

My cough subsided enough that both Linda and I finally got a little sleep last night.  She made her yummy vegan pancakes for breakfast and my sense of taste had returned to the point that I enjoyed them.  I still wasn’t feeling up to much physical activity, but managed to pull up all of the stakes for the pole barn and mark the location of each one with green marker paint.  I was feeling well enough to work at my desk and spent a good portion of the rest of the day downloading and installing apps on my new ASUS laptop.

I was working at my computer this afternoon when I had one of those associative moments where I suddenly remembered something I was trying to recall a week ago.  As a young pre-teenager in the early 1960’s there were three things that I had set as “life goals” but I could only remember two of them, although I was clear that I had accomplished all three.  I was looking at the support thread for the Participant’s Database WordPress plug-in, where there was a lot of detail on “coding,” when I recalled that the missing goal was to “learn to program a computer.”  Duh!

These “life goals” were not career goals; they were just ideas that sounded interesting and “out there” at the time.  I actually ended up “programming computers” for a living for a while and did some very fancy FORTRAN programming for my electrical engineering Masters Degree project and again to create the Monte-Carlo simulations that were the foundation of my doctoral research and dissertation.  My other two goals where to “understand nuclear energy” and “learn to fly an airplane” both of which I also accomplished, at least to my satisfaction.  I never made a living in aviation, although my dad spent almost his entire adult working life in the aerospace industry, both defense and space.  I did end up studying physics as an engineering student, and teaching it at the high school level, so in a sense understanding nuclear energy also touched on earning a living at one point in my life.  As an Air Force ROTC cadet from 1973 – 1976 I was a pilot candidate.  If not for the sudden end of the Vietnam Conflict, I would have made my living in aviation, at least for a while.

Perhaps these seem like strange life goals for a pre-teen, but they were very forward-looking and exotic notions in the early 1960’s.  The fact that I accomplished them does not mean my life is complete or that I have accomplished everything else I attempted in the last half century.  Nor does it mean that I ran out of things to do or the motivation to do them.  I simply find it interesting that I accomplished them and find a certain satisfaction in that.  To this day whenever I see an airplane fly by I wonder how many people see that same plane and wonder what it must be like to fly it or are mystified by how it is able to stay in the air?  I also wonder how people manage to make sense of a world connected together by technologies about which they have no real understanding, or how they understand a universe ruled at its most fundamental level by randomness and chaos.  Downloading and installing software leaves me a certain amount of time to think, and I downloaded and installed a lot of software today.

Linda made a wonderful vegan potato salad this afternoon and we had it for dinner with jumbo vegan hot dogs, with mustard, onion, and relish, of course.  And grapes; but no adult beverages as they are contraindicated for my medications, and frankly are not the least bit satisfying when ill.  I know I’m getting better when my appetite starts to return.  I will know I am fully recovered when I once again look forward to a glass of wine with dinner.

Technomadia did a one hour live video chat at 8 PM with RVillage founder/CEO Curtis Coleman.  It was a good, relaxed chat with enough questions from the audience to keep it moving.  I think they had 45 people online at one time.  They use UStream for these live video events and were interrupted three or four times by commercials.  The first one I got was in Spanish, but someone else got one in French.  The problem was that the hosts do not get a heads up that UStream is going to cut them off, so they keep talking until someone messages them that they are not on the air.  But it’s a “free” service, and of course almost everything in life that’s free has a hidden cost, especially if it involves the Internet.  Somewhat ironically the RVillage website went offline during the broadcast.  The head of development was monitoring the chat and got right on it as soon as it was reported; something about “backend server overload.”  RVillage passed the 7,500 member level just before the video chat went live.  Whatever the issue was they had it straightened out quickly.  RVillage lives on very robust servers run by Amazon.


2014/05/23 (F) Over And Out

I called the clinic at 6:30 AM, as I was instructed to do yesterday, and got a 9:30 AM appointment.  My temperature was 101.7 which seemed to surprise the nurse; she said they do not often see adults with that degree of fever.  They had me wear a mask and the doctor wore one too.  My lungs sounded clear and X-Rays did not reveal any spots, but given my temperature and productive cough she prescribed a 10-day course of antibiotic, plus Tylenol for the fever and Mucinex as an expectorant.  I was told to stay home for 48 hours, as I would continue to be contagious for that long, limit my activities, stay hydrated, and rest.  And that is what I am going to do.  This will be my last blog post for at least a few days.  Being ill and inactive doesn’t give me very much to write about and I don’t really feel like doing it anyway.


2014/05/22 (R) Still Resting

I called Mike (W8XH) last night and we agreed that it would be better for him to wait until I was better to come over and help us with our computer issues.  I finally got up around 8 AM, having spent 11 hours in bed.  I took a nice, warm shower and felt almost human.  Not well by any means, but enough better to have some granola for breakfast and catch up on the blogs I follow in Feedly.  It was a spectacularly beautiful morning and I opened all of the doorwalls and some of the windows.

I planned to take it easy today and maybe just sit on the rear deck and enjoy the weather, the view, and the sounds of the birds.  It got cloudy as the morning wore on and never got as warm as I had hoped so I closed up the house.  I worked at my desk for a while and got badly chilled and started shivering uncontrollably.  I had forgotten to turn the basement furnace zone back on and the temperature had dropped to 65 degrees.  I made some hot tea and some hot soup for lunch, which helped a little, and finally wrapped myself in an afghan and lay down on the couch.  Around 3:00 PM I called Henry Ford Health System Columbus Center in Novi, Michigan to see if I could get an appointment with our internal medicine doctor.  She was off tomorrow and it was too late to book an appointment with anyone else.  I was told to call back at 6:30 AM tomorrow for a same-day appointment.  Duly noted.  I went back to sleep on the couch.  The chills and shakes had left me completely drained to the point where I could not sit up or read.

I was finally tired of lying down, so I examined the printer drivers for our HP CLJ 3600n network printer on Linda’s Samsung laptop to see what was installed.  There were 40 files listed!  Someone has got to be kidding.  A notice popped up on her screen that Windows 8.1 was available as a free download.  I checked with Linda (it’s her machine, after all) and she gave me the green light.  I let it install and then restarted the machine.  I sent a test MS Word document to the printer and it printed just fine.  Great, so the printer can be installed under Windows 8 and then the machine updated to Windows 8.1, put it cannot be installed directly into Windows 8.1.  Microsoft “blames” HP stating that printer manufacturers are solely responsible for their drivers.  Even if true it’s still lame, very lame and there’s plenty of shame to spread over both companies.  It’s a “business class printer” designed for high volume use.  Since our volume is not high, our (expected) use is obviously long.  It’s enough to make my next computer a Linux box or a Mac and my next printer anything but an HP.

Speaking of which, I signed up for a free Intro to Linux course from The Linux Foundation offered through edX.  It starts August 1st.  My friend Steve has been trying to get me interested in Linux for a long time.  My problem has never been a lack of interest but a lack of a good, organized approach into the subject.  There are books on the subject, but I am unlikely to just sit down and read one as an academic exercise.  I have Linux running on one of my old computers (a dual processor Dell Precision Workstation) and Steve has been helping me set it up as a local web-server that I can use to test my WordPress sites, so that provides the needed sense of purpose.

I spent a little time in the evening uploading blog posts and then went to bed.  I can’t remember the last time I felt this bad.


2014/05/21 (W) A Twilight Zone

Linda has been ill since last Thursday with a cold and/or allergies.  Until yesterday I had managed to avoid her symptoms, but in the morning I started sneezing and in afternoon I developed a cough.  It wasn’t a response to a tickle in my throat from post-nasal drip, it was the deep raspy cough that comes from the lungs and makes them hurt.  By evening the cough had become productive.  I have not been sick in a very long time and the one thing I try to avoid getting is pneumonia, which I have had three times in the same spot of the same lung.  The scar tissue there makes me more susceptible to re-infection, and I take my nasal spray and allergy pill every day to avoid sinus problems which can settle into my lungs.  Until Tuesday this had been very successful.

We both had a very poor night’s sleep last night and got out of bed feeling like we were in a twilight zone.  Instead of coffee I had a big cup of Tazo Ginger Spice tea.  The warmth and ginger taste were soothing and I figured it could not hurt to stay hydrated.  I put a load of laundry in the washer (I only have two loads to go) and then had a large glass of orange/grapefruit juice.  Linda also had some tea and then gathered up clothes for the next five days.  She will be watching grand-daughter Madeline around the clock until Sunday when her parents return from San Francisco, California.

I checked on my new laptop and the Adobe Creative Cloud Desktop (ACCD) app showed that Photoshop had been successfully installed; at least it showed that in one place, but in another place it said I had no apps installed.  Hummm?  I did not see the icons at the bottom of the screen but the one thing I have learned about Windows 8/8.1 is that I can go to the Start (Metro) screen and start typing and I usually get directed to what I am looking for.  I noticed a little arrow in the lower left corner of the screen that said “4 new apps.”  I clicked on that and it took me to the screen where all if the installed programs are listed and there they were!  I opened Lightroom and registered it and then opened Photoshop; twice.  It appears that I have a 32-bit version and a 64-bit version.  I’m not sure why, as my new laptop has a 64-bit processor, but they are both listed.

I got out my iPad2 but did not have the energy or interest to even play a game and lay down on the couch to take a nap.  Linda had a couple of hours before she had to leave for Ann Arbor, and made a batch of her super special granola.  I got a call from Kimber at GM Construction letting me know that Gary would not be able to stop by the house today to look at our pole barn project.  He had to go up north for family reasons.  Given how I felt it was for the better.  He will stop by on Friday or sometime next week.

I didn’t feel like sitting up but I was tired of lying down, so I had some granola, sans soy milk, and worked at my iPad2.  I have been keeping up with writing my blog posts, but not with posting them.  I want to select a few photos from the Escapade to include in the posts but have not felt like going through them.  I shot over 2,000 images during the event.  Linda keeps suggesting that I only write weekly posts when we are home.  It seems like that would be easier, but I have tried that and it’s not.  For one I lose track of details, and sometimes even the day/date something happened.  I also found that the weekly posts just ended up being very long.  What I really need to do is focus on writing shorter posts.  But as a weblog, the blog is first and foremost an online diary, so the details I include are there because they are important to me at the time.

Although I did not feel like doing it, I forced myself to select a dozen photos from the 15th and 16th and post process them.  I have everything I need to upload my posts for the last week except the energy and desire.  UPS showed up around 5 PM with the mirror from Prevost.  I spent most of the day lying down on the couch and finally went to bed around 9 PM.


2014/05/20 (T) Software Redemption

Linda was off to the bakery again this morning, but not as early as yesterday.  She had a mid-afternoon meeting which put her return trip at the worst of the evening rush hour.  She is still under the weather, so the last two days have definitely been more work then fun.

I was disgusted enough with my experience yesterday trying to download and install the Adobe Creative Cloud  Desktop app (ACCD) that I decided not to work on my computers this morning.  I had, however, left my new ASUS laptop on all night in the hope that the ACCD app would finish downloading and install correctly.  Sometimes you have to just step away so I started a load of laundry and made a list errands.  Sometimes the best way to step away is to literally get out of the house (or bus) and since errands have a purpose, and provide a sense of accomplishment, they are always good therapy.  I got the laundry out of the dryer and left just after noon.  I got back around 4 PM with bags full of essential but inexpensive stuff; think “TP” and you will have the right idea.

While I was out I got Mike (W8XH) on the S. Lyon 2 meter ham radio repeater and arranged for him to help me with my e-mail issues on my new laptop.  I started another load of laundry when I got home and then checked on my computer.  ACCD had finished installing correctly!  I have no idea how long it took; the progress bar did not move when I sat and watched it.  I started up my old laptop to check e-mail and discovered that we appeared to have a very slow Internet connection.  All of my online programs worked fine yesterday (except the ACCD installation), and they were all working today, but not very fast.  The difficulty I had installing ACCD may have been an Internet connection issue rather than an Adobe issue, but I will never know.  We have an AT&T High Speed Internet (HSI) landline.  The only thing slower is dial-up.

ACCD was open and showed me a list of apps.  Most of the apps had a “Try” button, which is an attempt on Adobe’s part to inflate our monthly bill to gigantic proportions.  Lightroom (Lr) and Photoshop (Ps), however, had “Install” buttons, a good sign that Adobe had the correct details for our ACC account.  I clicked the Install button for Lightroom and went upstairs.  I was feeling progressively worse through the day and after Linda called with her ETA I decided to take a nap.

Linda reheated the leftover pasta from Sunday’s dinner.  After dinner I checked on the progress of the Lightroom download/install.  It was done and showed the status as “Up To Date”.  Today was turning out to be a good day, so I clicked Install for Photoshop, finished editing some blog posts, answered a few e-mails, and turned off my old computer.  With no other devices trying to use our Internet connection I was optimistic that I will find it downloaded and installed in the morning.  Linda tried to install Microsoft Security Essentials on her laptop earlier today and suddenly had programs she did ask for or authorize as best she was aware.  Thanks Microsoft.  Attempting to remove them brought up additional vendor dialog boxes so we let it be for now.  We were both too tired and feeling to poorly to think carefully or do online research to figure out what was going on.  With any luck Mike can help us with this on Thursday.


2015/05/19 (M) Software Frustrations

Linda had to go into the bakery today and left early this morning before I even woke up.  I wasn’t all that hungry when I got up, which us unusual for me, so I started a load of laundry and got to work at my desk.  I have had my new ASUS laptop for a couple of weeks now, but I do not yet have it set up for use.  I’ve lost track of the exact count of updates, but it was somewhere between 70 and 80 when we left for the Escapade and 25 more got installed yesterday.  The only software I have added so far is Microsoft Office 2013, but the computer came with quite a few “apps” already installed.  The salesman at Best Buy had alerted me to expect quite a few updates initially so this has not come as a big surprise.

At one of the Geeks On Tour seminars we attended at Escapade they suggested that laptop computers may eventually disappear.  I doubt that desktop or laptop computers will ever completely disappear from the market, but we know from recent experience that the selection is narrowing and there are fewer companies making them.  Perhaps someday I will be creating documents (text and spreadsheet) and editing photos on a tablet, but if so, it will be with a large external monitor, full-size keyboard, and a mouse.  It’s not that I am “old fashioned” or resistant to change, it’s that some tasks are more easily accomplished in certain ways.

On the other hand, I write most of these blog posts on my iPad2.  It’s small and light and I can work on the couch, the deck, outside our motorhome, at Panera, in bed, or pretty much anywhere, and I have worked in all those places and more.  Before they go into WordPress, however, I e-mail them to myself, copy and paste them into Word, edit them, and insert captions as markers for the photographs.  I select and process all of the photographs on my computer.  The post is copied from Word and pasted into the WordPress editor where I make some final changes and then upload and insert the images.  I often review the post on my iPad to make sure it formats OK and if I find a typo I will log into our site from my iPad2 and make the correction.

This morning I purchased, downloaded, and installed the password program we use on our other devices.  The process was easy and it sync’d up with our Cloud account as soon as I activated it.  This is one of those cases where the Cloud really makes a lot of sense to me as the amount of data that gets moved around is small.  We now have this same app on three laptops and two iPads.  The original password program was on my Palm Tungsten T-3 and was sync’d only to my old laptop via a USB cable.  We were able to install the new version of the program on that laptop, capture all of the existing password information, and store it in the Cloud account that was included in the price of the app/program.  From there it was a simple matter to put the app on other Windows laptops and install the iOS version on our iPads.  We can add/change the information on any device and it updates the Cloud database (if we are connected to the Internet) and then updates all of the other devices the next time they are online.

I still have a lot of contact information and my main calendar on my Palm, and it is still sync’d with my old WinXP laptop via a USB cable.  I plan to “move” that information to Outlook on my new computer, but in this case “move” may mean “manually enter.”  If so, I am not looking forward to that process.

Prevost’s U. S. parts center in Elgin, Illinois operates from 7 AM to 7 PM Central Time, Monday through Friday.  I called them a little after 8 AM EDT and talked to Aeleen.  They had the mirror assembly in stock in New Jersey so I ordered it.  It should be here on Wednesday or Thursday; 2-day shipping is almost always included in the price.  She is also going to have the home office in Quebec mail me an updated CD with the CatBase Viewer program/database to install on my new laptop.  This program/database has diagrams and parts lists for almost everything in the bus for all models back to the early 70’s.  It filters the diagrams and parts lists to our VIN numbers and I have found it enormously helpful in figuring out what part I need before calling the Elgin parts center to place an order.  Prevost also has an online ordering system and using it would save us 3%, but I often find that I am not quite clear on the part I need, or the part has been superseded by a new one that is not shown in (my version of) the CatBase Viewer.  The telephone order desk folks are usually very helpful.

I had sent a text message to Chuck earlier and got a return phone call.  We talked at length about bus projects, pole barns, and recent travels.  Having gotten the bus mirror ordered and my password app installed/operating I was feeling like it was going to be a fairly productive day.  As an “expert” on data I was aware that two data points do not establish a trend, and so it was that my winning streak came to a halt when I tried to install our HP LaserJet 3600n network printer and the Adobe CC Desktop App.

I had my laptop search for network printers and it found the 3600n.  I downloaded and installed the Win 7/8/8.1 printer installation wizard and ran it.  When I tried to install it I was taken to the list of manufacturers and models to select the appropriate driver.  Alas, the LaserJet 3600n was not on the list and the wizard told me that our printer was not currently supported by the wizard.  It seems that the printer wizard has something in common with the Wizard of Oz.

I tried Windows Update, but no luck there either.  I went to the Win 8.1 “metro” screen and searched for “install printer” and “install network printer” which led me to various web pages on Microsoft’s and Hewlett-Packard’s websites.  I eventually found a driver for Windows 8.1 USB, but I am not trying to connect to the printer through a USB cable, I am trying to use it through our Ethernet LAN.  The odd thing is that Linda’s Windows 8.1 Samsung laptop prints to the LaserJet 3600n over our LAN just fine.  Unfortunately I have no recollection of how we got her machine to do that at year ago.  This took up at least an hour of my morning, without success, for what should have been a 3-minute task.  Being retired does not make this waste of time any less frustrating.

In late December (2013) I subscribed to Adobe’s Creative Cloud (CC) Photography Program.  For $10/month we get to download and use Lightroom (Lr) and Photoshop (Ps) on two computers, with updates whenever they are available, and access to training materials and forums.  We can also add other Adobe products (apps/programs) to our subscription for an additional monthly cost.  We installed Adobe Creative Cloud Desktop, Lightroom, and Photoshop on Linda’s Samsung laptop right away to make sure the subscription was set up correctly, but could not install these programs on my old 32-bit Win XP Pro machine (even though I specifically asked the pre-sale consultant if it would run on Windows XP and was told “yes”.)  One of my main reasons for getting a new laptop (besides the end of support for Windows XP), and for selecting the one I did, was to be able to run these two programs.  Alas, I was able to download the Adobe CC Desktop installer, but the installer was unable to install the Adobe CC Desktop App.  The Desktop App is used to install and update the other programs, so my Adobe installation efforts ended for the day shortly after they started.  Or should have; I plugged away at this several times before giving up.  I did notice in a news feed that Adobe had a 24-hour outage recently, and on one attempt to download I got a screen saying the site was down for maintenance, so I am hopeful (but not optimistic) that the next time I try this it will work correctly.  If not, I will find out how helpful Adobe Customer Service really is.

Linda got home around 5 PM, having spent almost 1.5 hours in rush hour traffic.  She was tired from a long day and the effects of a cold and/or allergy, so dinner was a simple salad and vegan brats on a hotdog bun with the rest of the fresh fruit from last night.  She headed off to bed and I returned to my ham shack/office where I responded to e-mails and updated three of my four WordPress sites.  I then configured my e-mail accounts in Outlook on my new computer.  I sent test messages for each account and got them all working after correcting a couple of typos.

To set up the e-mail accounts I copied all of the “.pst” files from my WinXP machine to a folder on our NAS.  I copied the folder from the NAS to the ASUS in a place where I could find it easily.  I then configured and tested each e-mail account using the corresponding pst file.  Everything appeared to work except I did not have my address book.  One of the pst files was named Outlook.pst, and that file was associated with the Personal Folders entry on my WinXP machine.  That folder was moved to Outlook from Outlook Express where I only had one e-mail account, and that account went away last May after we moved.  Since I was not setting up an e-mail account to go with this pst file, I decided to import it into Outlook.  It showed up in my list of e-mail accounts and I appeared to have all of my contacts when I clicked on People at the bottom of the screen but I was not able to select them as recipients for a new e-mail.  Ugh.  So close and yet not right.  I e-mailed Mike (W8XH) to see if he could assist me with this as he has in the past, and then went to bed.


20140418 (N) Taxi Turn Oops

We complied with the Fairgrounds’ request that we not depart until today, but we wanted to be on the road by 9 AM.  We were up at 7:30 AM and got busy right away with our departure routine.  The 5th Wheel parked next to us decided to leave last night.  They were from Alaska and the husband was an instructor for the RV Driving School.  He had also been an “ice road trucker” at one time.  I told him that I was not sure what the best technique was for exiting the infield over soft ground with freshly spread loose gravel.  He suggested the following technique: 1) Pull up the tag axles to put more weight on the drive tires and to keep them from dragging on the ridges created by the space between the drive tires; 2) transmission in 1st gear (manual selection); 3) Keep the engine at 900 – 1,100 RPM (high-idle) and avoid quick changes in engine RPM to keep from spinning the drive tires; 4) keep moving; don’t stop.

We were ready to go by 8:00 AM and said our farewells to Butch and Fonda.  We were anxious to get home and decided not to stop at the dump stations.  Linda went ahead of me in the car to block any traffic from entering the infield through the gate.  I made it through the soft part of the infield just fine using the technique as previously described.  I got across the horse track without difficulty and then made a sharp turn onto an interior road where we could stop to hook up the car.  As I came around the corner I clipped a sign with the driver side rear view mirror.  In my defense I thought it was a cloth banner, but it wasn’t.  The mirror was pulled loose from the motorized base and plastic parts were broken in the process.  Butch and Fonda were pulling out behind us and stopped to see what the problem was.  We used some of the Rescue Tape we keep on board to tape the mirror onto the base and adjusted it by hand as best we could.  I had an adequate view down the driver’s side of the coach, allowing me to drive it safely.  We hooked up the car and were on our way by 9:00 AM.

The rest of the trip was smooth sailing and without incident.  We exited the fairgrounds onto Monroe Street east to County 29 north to IN-4 east to IN-13 north to US-20 east to I-69 north to I-96 east to MI-59 east to Hacker Rd south to our house.  We had light traffic and pleasant weather for the whole drive.  When we pulled up in front of our house (on the street) Linda got out to help position the coach in the driveway.  Jasper immediately came out from under the passenger seat and got down in the stairwell to look out the lower window and I had the sense that he recognized we were home.  As soon as we got parked, Linda took the cats inside and then took off for the grocery store while I plugged in the shore power, unhooked the car, and started unloading the bus.

I spent a little time getting a couple of blog posts uploaded to WordPress before John and Diane arrived around 5:00 PM.  Linda made a very nice green salad with walnuts and dried cranberries and a bow-tie pasta dish with sun-dried tomatoes, mushrooms, garlic, and pesto for dinner.  John and Diane brought a bottle of Barefoot Sweet Red wine which we had with the meal.  We had fresh mixed berries with biscotti cookies for dessert.  Tomorrow was a work day for everyone but me, so John and Diane took their leave around 8:30 PM and Linda headed off to bed shortly thereafter.  Since I did not have to get up at Oh-Dark-Thirty I worked at my desk for a while before retiring for the night.  Linda has not been feeling well for the last few days and cannot figure out if she has a cold or allergies or both.  I’ve been tired too, but rallies can do that, especially when we are working.


2014/05/17 (S) Working While We Wait

As soon as the fairgrounds and Escapade management had asked those of us parked on the horse track infield to delay our departure until Sunday (with a free night’s stay Saturday evening) we decided to comply with their request.  Our friends, Butch and Fonda, are parked next to us and also decided to delay their departure.  Butch and I hung out this morning while Linda worked with Fonda on their business accounting.

Butch and I were not having any luck solving all of the world’s problems so we decided to investigate our Aqua-Hot problem.  The expansion reservoir had apparently overflowed again so I cleaned up the coolant as best I could.  I turned on our Aqua-Hot so Butch could observe the smoke on startup and try to detect if it had an odor associated with it.  The unit startup up on the first try and produced a lot of white smoke.  The white smoke eventually disappeared, but it took quite a while.  Neither of us detected the slightly sweet smell of combusted coolant.

I had hoped to have a definitive analysis of our Aqua-Hot situation, but I ended up with data that was inconclusive, at best, and inconsistent, at worst.  Recent experiences with a failure to start, excessive white smoke on startup, needing to add coolant, and failure to hold pressure all suggested a coolant leak, possibly into the combustion chamber.   On the other hand, it started fine today and the white smoke did eventually clear up.  There were alternative explanations for some of the data and these always need to be considered.  Jumping to conclusions about what is wrong with a bus/conversion can be unnecessarily expensive.

The loss of pressure may have been due to our inability to keep the pressure tube vertical because of the tight quarters.  The pressure is released by pushing this tube to the side where it connects to the radiator fill spout.  The loss of coolant could be due to the undersized expansion reservoir overflowing when the unit heats up.  I know for a fact that it does this if I have too much coolant in the reservoir when the unit is cold.  To pin down whether or not there is a coolant leak into the combustion chamber I will have to remove the burner assembly from the combustion chamber, pressurize the closed coolant system, and visually check for leaks.  Even if I don’t find a leak there that will not rule out a leak somewhere.  Ugh.  Aqua-Hot units are expensive to replace and the model we have is not longer made, so our only direct replacement option is a rebuilt unit.  The unit in the coach is a rebuilt one that was installed sometime between Sep 2009 and April 2010.

We quit working with the Aqua-Hot around 1:00 PM to have lunch before heading over to the Tri-Chapter Rally (TCR).  A little before 2:00 PM we drove over to the AG Hall for the opening of the TCR.  The TCR is an annual joint event of SKP Chapters 6 (Michigan – Great Lakes), 36 (Ohio – Erie Shores), and 51 (Indiana – Hoosier Neighbor).  The TCR is usually held in late June on the same weekend as the ARRL Field Day ham radio operating event so we have never been able to attend.  Because Escapade was in Goshen, Indiana the TCR was scheduled at the same fairgrounds immediately following the national rally.

We are members of Chapter 6 and Butch/Fonda are members of Chapter 51 but neither of us registered for the TCR because we had planned on leaving today.  Since we were “stuck” here we figured we would make an appearance at the 2 PM opening of the rally and play it by ear from there.  It turned out that 2:00 PM was the beginning of registration; the opening social was scheduled for 4:00 PM with dinner at 5:30 PM.  The rally organizer said we could come to the social without registering, but wanted us to pay if we were staying for dinner.  That seemed reasonable and we indicated that we would return at 4:00 PM to be sociable for an hour.

We never made it back.  By the time 4 o’clock came around we were all tired and none of us felt like being sociable.  We eventually got hungry and went to the South Side Soda Shop (SSSS).  SSSS was featured in an episode of Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives (Triple-D).  It was appropriately quaint, the wait staff was very friendly, and the food was good and plentiful; exactly what you would expect from a place featured on Triple-D.  Linda and I had garden salads with a dressing we had never had before; oil and capers.  It was delicious; a new favorite.  We split a veggie sandwich, flat bread with pesto and hummus, and an order of curly fries.  The fries alone would have been a meal!

Butch bought a WiFi Ranger Mobile and Go2 combo at the Escapade.  Earlier in the day he attached the Mobile unit to a couple of pieces of PVC pipe which he used as a mast by securing them to the driver’s side mirror on their bus.  He ran the coax in through a window and hooked it all together.  After dinner I worked with him to get the WFR Mobile/Go2 configured while Fonda visited with Linda.

I have done a couple of posts this past week that brought up concepts from aviation because I used to fly airplanes and thought there were interesting analogies to be made.  Well, here’s another one:  RVing, much like flying, is weather dependent, and more so than you might realize.  We have had to be pulled out of two different fairgrounds at the conclusion of week-long rallies where we were parked on grass and it rained (hard) most of the week.  Unless you only stay at campgrounds with paved roads and sites this will eventually happen.  When threatening weather is in your path, you ground yourself; a high profile vehicle with an amateur driver does not belong on the road in high winds, blinding rain, or icy conditions any more than a private pilot should be in the air under those conditions.  An RV has no more business crossing a flooded road than a car or pedestrian does, and the reason you have a home that can be moved is so you can get it out of harm’s way; RVs are not designed to be driven into tornadic storms, hurricanes, or blizzards.

We really need to be on the road Sunday morning as we have company coming for dinner that evening, Linda has to go into the bakery on Monday and Tuesday, and someone is coming to the house on Wednesday to discuss our pole barn project.  But just because we need to leave doesn’t mean we will be able to.  That will be decided by Mother Nature.  If we cannot get the bus out on Sunday Linda will take the car and return home and I will return with the bus (and the casts) when I can.


2014/05/16 (F) Final Approach

The overnight low temperature hit 33 degrees F; probably not a record for this location and date, but still unseasonably cold.  There are plenty of attendees at this Escapade who are from more southern parts of the country, and they find this cold snap particularly unpleasant.  We brought a range of clothing options so we have been able to layer our garments as needed.

Today is the last day of the Escapade.  For many participants there is a feeling of things winding down.  The vendors closed up at 3 PM yesterday.  Some left last evening and others pulled out today.  There were morning seminars, but not as many.  People are tired after a long, busy week, and the dreary, cold, damp weather has caused some folks to huddle in their rigs.

SKP craft donations at Goshen Hospital.  Bard (standing center) and Vera (standing right).

SKP craft donations at Goshen Hospital. Barb (standing center) and Vera (standing right).

The experience is different for the Escapade staff that is busy bringing Escapade to a safe and successful conclusion and preparing for the post-rally tear down and wrap-up.  Even after you have landed a plane on a runway there is work to do taxiing back to the parking spot and tying it down.  There is a technique to taxiing a small plane, and if you don’t do it correctly an unexpected cross-wind can flip the plane over; so too with a big rally.  The muddy infield situation, for instance, has added work for them.  It’s always something.

This greyhound at the pet parade had a jockey!

This greyhound at the pet parade had a jockey!  Such a sweet dog.

The fairgrounds appears to have finished spreading gravel around the worst part of the infield along the makeshift route leading to the place where we all have to cross the horse track and exit through the gate in the track perimeter fence.  It still feels very soft under our car tires, so it remains to be seen whether the repairs will be adequate to get the 100 or so RVs that are parked here out of the infield over the course of Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday.  Our hope is that heavy vehicles driving on the gravel will pack it down.  Our fear is that the loose gravel will simply cause our drive tires to spin and our steer tires to plow.

I took pictures every dog in the parade, but these greyhounds really captured my attention.

I took pictures of every dog in the parade, but these greyhounds really captured my attention.

I drove over to the seminar building around 8:45 AM and Linda stayed in our rig.  I took a few shots of Lou’s photography seminar and then moved the car over by Lou and Val’s 5th Wheel.  (They are parked in a particularly convenient place with room for an extra car.)  I grabbed some coffee and joined Curtis (from RVillage) for a brief chat before walking over to the Escapade office at 10 AM to meet up with the ladies who were taking donated craft items to the local hospital.  Lou was going to be tied up following his morning seminar putting together the final slide show for the closing ceremonies at 3:00 PM and asked me to cover the hospital event as we wanted to include a photo in the final slide show and Kathy Carr, Escapees RV Club president, wanted them for future use.

This "Scotty" was dressed for the parade.

This “Scotty” was dressed for the parade.

When I got back I went to Lou’s trailer, I gave him the CF card from the hospital shoot and got back the CF card I had left with Val last night.  I photographed the Pet Parade at 11:15 AM and then joined Linda at the SKP Amateur Radio BOF brown bag lunch.  We stayed as long as we could and then headed next door to photograph the Chili Cookoff.  With that activity captured we returned to Lou and Val’s 5th Wheel, transferred the new photos, and got my CF cards back.  We then headed back to our coach.

It was cold and drizzly, so I guess this makes sense, at least for a small dog.

It was cold and drizzly, so I guess this makes sense, at least for a small dog.

Michele Henry of Phoenix Paint had called me while I was taking photos at the hospital to let me know she was on her way to the fairgrounds.  I texted her when we got back to our coach and a little while later she pulled up with her kids, Raven and River.  Both of the kids know me from the time I spent at Michelle’s shop working on my own projects while her crew prepped and painted our motorcoach a few years ago.  We had a nice visit and Michelle took a few minutes to look at our rear bumper fascia.  All too soon we had to head over to the closing ceremonies so they took their leave of us.

We had a Golden Retriever that lived to be almost 15 year old.  They will also be our favorite dog breed.

We had a Golden Retriever that lived to be almost 15 years old. They will always be our favorite dog breed.  So gentle and loving, everyone is their new best friend.

We wanted to get to the Assembly Hall early so we could see the slide show.  Once again, Lou used a good selection of photographs that I took and did a nice job of manipulating them to improve their appearance.  Just before the opening ceremonies we received our Escapade Volunteer Pins and two tickets for the volunteer prize drawing.  Lou and I met briefly with Bob Pinner to coordinate what needed to be photographed, who was going to do what, and from what perspective.  Following the closing ceremonies we photographed the grand prize winners and sponsors and then headed over to the Escapade office to photograph the Chili Cook-Off winner in her prize apron.  We went back to Lou’s trailer to transfer a final set of images and we were officially done photographing the 54th Escapade.

There were some post-closing activities, however, and we attended the Chapter 46 Lincolnland (Illinois) social at 4PM with Lou and Val, who are members.  A couple of other groups were also meeting at 4:30 PM.  At 7:00 PM Johnny Cockrum provided the music for a farewell dance/party.  Snacks were provided, BYOB, but we did not go.  The temperatures dropped as the sunlight faded and by the time we finished dinner we did not feel like going back out in the cold.  I had requests from a couple of people for photos and took care of those via e-mail and Dropbox before going to bed.

2014/05/15 (R) Base Leg

As a private pilot of a small airplane there is a standard way to approach an airport that does not have air traffic controllers directing the flow of aircraft to/from the runway(s) and surrounding air space.  That standard way is called “the pattern” and when landing one must enter and follow the pattern correctly.  The pattern will be clockwise (right hand turns) or counterclockwise (left hand turns) and involves segment called “legs.”  Standard radio frequencies may let you know which runway and pattern are currently in use.

The pattern is usually entered on the “downwind leg” which is parallel to the runway with the wind coming from behind (tailwind) as much as possible.  You generally enter this leg at a specified altitude above the runway elevation and then start to descend.  How far you need to be from the runway is partially determined by your airspeed, but when I flew I would typically be a quarter to a half mile away.  As you pass the end of the runway you continue descending on the downwind leg for another 1/4 to 1/2 mile and then turn 90 degrees towards the runway.

This was our way out of the Elkhart Co. 4-H Fairgrounds horse track infield.  Not gonna happen.

This was our way out of the Elkhart Co. 4-H Fairgrounds horse track infield. Not gonna happen.

As you complete the turn you are now traveling perpendicular to the centerline of the runway on what is known as the “base leg” where you continue to descend.  On the base leg you often have a crosswind trying to blow you sideways off of your intended path and have to correct for that.  As you approach the centerline of the runway you again turn 90 degrees towards the runway, timing your turn so that you are lined up with the centerline as you complete your turn.

You are now on “final approach” and descending at a rate that puts you very close to the ground as you cross the end of the runway.  On final approach you are flying into the wind as much as possible, causing your ground speed (motion with respect to the earth) to be slower than your airspeed (motion with respect to the air mass you are flying through).  This slower ground speed makes it easier to land, particularly on a short runway.  Once you are over the runway you cut the engine power, bleed off more airspeed, and put the wheels on the ground.

Lou Petkus, head Escapade photographer, at the SKP Photographers BOF "row" table with Linda.  My friend Kate designed the logo.

Lou Petkus, head Escapade photographer, at the SKP Photographers BOF “row” table with Linda. My friend Kate designed the logo.

Landing an airplane is a complex task but all of the things you need to do become second nature with enough practice.  You develop a “feel” for your aircraft and the ability to visually judge altitude, distance, and speed, or use instruments to know these things.

So what does that have to do with the Escapees RV Club Escapade?  Not much, except that I have always liked analogies and today was the “base leg” of the event.  Tomorrow we “turn on final” and land.  Saturday is when we taxi from the runway back to our hangar.  For other attendees it will be a “touch-and-go” in which the landing is immediately followed by the application of full power and the airplane is taken back into the air.  Perhaps it will go around in the pattern and land again or it may vector off in some direction on a cross country trip.  I could extend this analogy in other ways, but I’m not going to.

Linda at the SKP Ham BOF "row" table pretending to use the HF rig.  We had a special event call sign (W9E) but not a good location for antennas.

Linda at the SKP Ham BOF “row” table pretending to use the HF rig. We had a special event call sign (W9E) but not a good location for antennas.

It was cold and overcast with light rain this morning and the Escapade decided to stop running the golf carts into the infield where we are parked because they were getting stuck in the mud.  (Golf carts are not off road vehicles.)  That meant we had to walk through the mud and puddles (small lakes, really), drive our car, or stay put in our coach.  I checked-in to the 7:30 AM ham radio 2 meter net and then put on a pot of coffee.

We wanted to hear Nick Russell’s seminar at 10 AM so we drove over around 9:45.  We gave a lift to one of our fellow infield campers who was struggling through the bad conditions using a cane.  After Nick’s talk we were heading to the hospitality area when I got a call from Curtis Coleman, founder/CEO of RVillage, inviting us to his rig for a chat.  We spent an hour with him and Patty (village tart) and his dog, Augie, who was very cute and friendly.  The central focus of our conversation was FMCA and how to get the leadership to understand what RVillage is, and how an FMCA/RVillage relationship is a win-win situation.  I have been appointed to the FMCA National Education Committee, which is charged with examining this issue and making recommendations to the national executive committee and that is why Curtis and I have been trying to arrange a conversation for awhile.

Curtis had an online business meeting to attend so we made our exit and headed over to the Geeks On Tour seminar on The Cloud.  In many respects the “cloud” is just another name for the Internet, with a subtle but important distinction.  In the past our interaction with the Internet (World Wide Web) was conscious, intentional, explicit, and initiated/controlled by us.  We typed in web addresses and navigated websites.  With the Cloud, much of the interaction with the Internet has been moved into “apps” that automatically move our data around and make it accessible from multiple devices from anywhere in the world with an Internet connection.  Take a picture on your smartphone and it shows up on your laptop and tablet.  Click, click and it’s in your latest blog post which shows up in a subscriber’s aggregator/reader.  It’s not magic, but it seems like it at times.

L-2-R Cherie and Chris of Technomadia and Curtis, founder/CEO of RVillage.

L-2-R Cherie and Chris of Technomadia and Curtis, founder/CEO of RVillage.

We went back to our rig and Linda prepared fresh grapes to take to the RVillage social at 4:30 PM.  We had a good turn out with about 90 people in attendance.  Many of them were already RVillage members, but some were not.  Just prior to the social there were 39 RVillage “members” “checked-in” to the 54th Escapade, although some of them, like us, were couples.  Everyone brought a snack, hors d’oeuvres, or beverage to share.  We mingled for a while and then Curtis connected his computer to the projector and grabbed the microphone.  He spoke at length and his vision, enthusiasm, and passion for this project was obvious.  Even those of us who are active on RVillage learned something.

After the social we moved the car over by Lou and Val’s 5th Wheel, which is parked near the Assembly Hall.  We watched the slide show and were pleased to see that quite a few of our images had been used.  We did not win a door prize, and left before the Ham-O-Rama talent show began.  Lou was there so I did not need to stay and take pictures.  Since he was taking photos I gave Val the Compact Flash card from my camera so Lou could transfer the photos to his computer after the talent show.  We then returned to our rig.

As the sun sank low in the western sky I photographed the infield of the horse track where we are parked.  The fairground is placing large quantities of gravel to try and repair the rutted, muddy mess that has developed as a result of the rains this past week and vehicle traffic going in and out of the infield.  The fairgrounds and Escapade management worked out a deal whereby we have been asked not to move our rigs until Sunday in exchange for a free night’s stay Saturday night.  We have been towed out of two other fairgrounds in the past, and would rather not repeat that experience if it can be avoided, so we will be staying until Sunday.  We would like to get out then as we have company coming for dinner Sunday night, but if not we will stay until we can.

I worked with Butch via telephone to get them set up on RVillage.  Even though they are parked next to us, we were both comfortably situated in our own buses for the evening and did not want to go back outside.  The high temperature today was around 50 degrees F and dropped quickly as the sun set.  With a strong wind from the north the wind chill was even lower.

2014/05/14 (W) The Mid-Point

The Escapees RV Club Escapade started on Monday afternoon and ends on Friday afternoon, so the middle of the event is sometime Wednesday afternoon.  Many attendees arrived on Sunday and many others, including us, on Saturday.  Most of the event staff, and many of the volunteers, arrived before that so today probably did not feel like the mid-point of the event to them, even though it was.

Teresa Moore, SKP RV Club COO, and Geroge Maylaben, owner of the RV Driving School.

Teresa Moore, SKP RV Club COO, and Geroge Maylaben, owner of the RV Driving School.

Linda still wasn’t feeling 100% so we skipped breakfast and went to the hospitality building for some coffee.  We like our own coffee better, but this coffee was included in the price of admission.  We took a stroll through the Marketplace (vendor area), which is in the two buildings adjacent to the hospitality area, and picked up a new regen tube and end caps for our portable water softener from RV-Water-Treatment.  We stopped to visit with Nick and a Terry Russell and renewed our Gypsy Journal subscription for two years.  As much as I love to read TGJ on newsprint, we switched our subscription to digital.  Printed materials are just more difficult to deal with in a mobile lifestyle.  Along with other informational and transactional activities we are trying to make our lives as paperless and mobile friendly as possible.

Our photo work continued even as the rains returned and intensified.  We tried to drop in on every seminar and the crafters to get photos.  Today was the Ladies Tea & Social, and some of the Ladies wore their Red Hats.  We attended the Ham Radio seminar, put on by Tom Abernathy (W3TOM), and Nick Russell’s seminar on Boondocking and off-the-grid RVing.  I got a few photos of the Ham-O-Rama (talent show) dress rehearsal while Linda went back to our coach to get some things.  As busy as we are, we always take time to smell the flowers and admire their beauty.

Some of the plants at Elkhart Co. 4-H Fairgrounds.

Some of the plants at Elkhart Co. 4-H Fairgrounds.

We met back at the seminar building for the Chapter 6 (Great Lakes) social.  We’ve been members of Chapter 6 for four years, having joined at the 2010 Escapade in Goshen, but to-date we have not managed to attend a Chapter 6 rally.  We may have met with other Chapter 6 members at a small social at the 53rd Escapade in Gillette, Wyoming last summer but today’s social was the first time we recalled meeting a larger group of members.  The Chapter will celebrate its 30th anniversary in September and we are planning to attend the rally if at all possible.  At the conclusion of our social I took a few pictures of the SKP Geocache BOF leaders in front of their BOF banner.  They asked if I would be willing to share the photos and gave me their contact information.

No entertainment was scheduled for this evening, leaving Escapade attendees free to socialize, go to dinner, or play cards or bingo in one of the two rooms designated for those purposes.  I photographed the bingo and then went to Lou and Val’s 5th Wheel so Lou could transfer my camera photos, and Linda’s cell phone photos, to his computer.  A few of the images will be used in an upcoming Escapade slide show and subsequently by the Escapees RV Club for other purposes.

Rally "bling."

Rally “bling.”

I had planned to work with Butch on some things this evening but by the time I got back to our coach it was an hour later than I had expected.  I chatted with him and Fonda for a half hour and then retired to our rig for the evening.  Nick Russell had asked if I would send him some of my photos (of him).  I went through all of the photos I had taken thus far and found the ones that included him and/or Terry.  I resized them to a maximum dimension of 1936 pixels (from 3872 for the hi-res JPEGs that come out if the camera), reducing each file to 25% of its original size, put them in a Dropbox folder, and e-mailed him the link.  I did the same thing for the SKP Geocache BOF photos.  By the time I checked and replied to e-mails and logged in to RVillage it was way past bedtime.

2014/05/13 (T) A Full Day

The Escapees RV Club Escapade started yesterday afternoon and ends on Friday afternoon, so Wednesday evening is the middle of the event.  Many attendees arrived on Sunday, and many others, including us, on Saturday.  Most of the event staff, and many of the volunteers, arrived even before that so today probably felt like we were well into the event even though it just started yesterday.

Curtis Coleman, RVillage Founder and CEO.

Curtis Coleman, RVillage Founder and CEO.

Yesterday we crossed paths briefly with Curtis Coleman, the founder and CEO of RVillage, at one of the seminars.  Although I had communicated with him in the past via RVillage messaging, e-mail, and telephone, it was the first time we had met in person.  We were all on our way to somewhere else and agreed to meet up at the Paul Evert’s RV Country social at 4:00 PM.

Linda and I continued our work as volunteer event photographers while also trying to attend a couple of seminars that interested us.  Kelly Hogan, founder/president of WiFi Ranger, gave an excellent talk on mobile connectivity.  Chris and Jim Guld, better known as the Geeks On Tour, did a nice overview of technology tools for travelers.


Chris and Jim Guld, the Geeks On Tour, presenting a seminar.

Chris and Jim Guld, the Geeks On Tour, presenting a seminar.

We take a stroll through the vendor area and ordered a new regen tube and end caps for our portable water softener.  We bought the softener from A-1 Water Treatment of Michigan at one of the RV rallies in Gillette, Wyoming last summer.  The owner sold A-1 but retained the portable RV softener business and now operates as RV-Water-Treatment.

Nick and Terry Russell of the Gypsy Journal in the vendor booth.

Nick and Terry Russell of the Gypsy Journal in the vendor booth.

We had hoped to meet up with Curtis at the Paul Evert’s RV Country social at 4:00 PM, but we had to leave for the Photography BOF social before he arrived.  BOF stands for “Birds Of a Feather,” the name the Escapees RV Club uses for special interest groups.  BOFs are distinct from Chapters which are geographic in scope.  We had a dozen folks show up for the Photography social.  Most of us had never met, so we spent some time sharing our photography background and interests. By the time the social ended the weather had turned.

The gathering storm.  It's been strange weather lately.

The gathering storm. It’s been strange weather lately.

Dinner?  What’s that?  We went early to the evening entertainment to see the slide show Lou had put together from our previous day’s effort.  Once again we failed to win a door prize.  The Homestead Pickers, a bluegrass trio, gave an excellent, high energy performance.  Linda wasn’t feeling quite right and left early.  I stopped at Lou and Val’s 5th Wheel after the concert so Lou could transfer my photos from today to his computer for inclusion in an upcoming slide show.  It doesn’t sound like much, but it was a long, full day.

The Homestead PIckers in concert.

The Homestead PIckers in concert.


2014/05/11 (N) A Pre-Game Show

Linda received Mother’s Day wishes this morning from our daughter and son.  Modern communications technology has certainly changed the RV experience, making it possible to stay in contact with family and friends, and even work or conduct business from the road.  The Elkhart County 4-H Fairground has WiFi and the WiFi Ranger Company is sponsoring WiFi connectivity and the WiFi Cafe during Escapade.  Our friends were having difficulty staying connected from inside their metal hulled bus, but we found and locked onto a strong signal using our WiFi Ranger Mobile Ti and shared it with them.

Panorama of the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.

Panorama of the Elkhart County 4-H Fairgrounds.

Today was still early arrival–the Escapade doesn’t officially start until tomorrow–but many rigs were already here and more arrived during the day.  For a rally that had not yet started there was a lot of activity.  Escapees runs a very popular “RVers Boot Camp” as a pre-rally before every Escapade.  They also have their SmartWeigh program set up to weigh vehicles.  The Geeks On Tour (Jim and Chris Guld) were also running pre-rally workshops on technologies for travelers, including Windows 8, cell phones, Picasa, and blogging.  Yesterday and today were big setup days for the vendors and Escapade volunteers were busy setting up the registration area, seminar rooms, and other venues.

I got a call from Lou Petkus (K9LU) regarding photography during the Escapade.  Linda and I had previously volunteered to be part of an official SKP Photographers BOF Escapade photography team.  He picked us up in a golf cart around 9:00 AM and we drove back to Building A to meet up with Sue Spahn, the forth member of our team.  Since the advent of digital photography, Escapade has featured a slide show of the previous day’s events just ahead of the evening announcements, door prizes, and entertainment.  Kathy Carr, Escapees RV Club president, and her daughter-in-law, Angie Carr, have handled this in the past, but asked the SKP Photographers BOF if they would take responsibility for it this year.  It was fortuitous that the BOF agreed to do this as Kathy and Bud had to return to Texas for medical reasons.  Kay Peterson, SKP founder and SKP #1, returned to Texas with them.

Molly Pinner (Escapade Director) and Lou Petkus (head photographer).

Molly Pinner (Escapade Director) and Lou Petkus (head photographer).

The photography team met for about an hour, looked at the schedule of events for the week, and discussed the kind of photos we were after and the logistics of covering all of the activities and still having some time to participate.  Head and shoulders shots of smiling people were at the top of the list, of course.  We each got a flash drive to use for transferring our photos each day to Lou whose job it would be to assemble the daily slide show.

Registration opened at 10:00 AM so we took care of that and picked up our 54th Escapade polo shirts we had pre-ordered.  I got a few photos of the Registration area/process, coffee/donut area, and Escapade banners in the WiFi Cafe.  Kelly Hogan, the president of WiFi Ranger, had his magnificent Class D motorhome and matching communications trailer parked just outside the building and we were able to chat with him briefly to thank him personally for figuring out how to get our WFR-MTi working with the Williston Crossings RV Resort WiFi system this past winter.

There were signs of spring at the fairgrounds.

There were signs of spring at the fairgrounds.

Linda headed back to our coach to start working on a project with Butch and Fonda while I stopped at the AG building to take a few photos of the Geeks On Tour in action.  I also stopped by the RVers boot camp for some photos and then climbed the grandstand to take a panorama of the fairgrounds.  Back at our rig I shot another panorama of our row and then settled in to work on Butch and Fonda’s project until we had to meet with Lou again at 3:30 PM.  We found Lou and Val’s rig and then drove over to Sue’s rig in Lou’s golf cart.  While we were there Lou got Wayne to take a picture of the photography team.

We decided to go to dinner with Lou and Val and headed back down US-33 looking for Culver’s.  Linda and I were able to get nice salads there and split some French fries.  Lou started to drive us back to our site but we kept stopping for photo ops.  One of those opportunities was the Vendor pizza party/social.  We got our photos and visited briefly with folks we knew like Chris Guld of Geeks On Tour, Nick/Terry Russell of The Gypsy Journal, and Charles/Chris Yust of C &’C Marketing (our RV insurance agents).  Escapade directors Bob and Molly Pinner were there along with some other vendors that we recognized.  Molly invited us to stay, which we appreciated, but we are not RV vendors and this was their social.

Terry Russell, Chris Guld, and Nick Russell at the vendor/speaker social.

Terry Russell, Chris Guld, and Nick Russell at the vendor/speaker social.

The RV vendors are their own little community (sub-culture) within the larger community/sub-culture of RVing.  Many (most?) of them are full-time RVers who make their living traveling the RV rally and show circuits selling their goods and services.  As such they share experiences and perspectives that are different from those of us who just attend rallies and shows, especially those of us who are retired.  They are often at the same events and, even when they are competitors, frequently become good friends.

Wallce Lewis (Escapade Assistant Director), Dortha Hall (Escapade Coordinator), and Jim Guld (speaker) at the vendor/speaker social.

Wallce Lewis (Escapade Assistant Director), Dortha Hall (Escapade Coordinator), and Jim Guld (speaker) at the vendor/speaker social.

We finally got back to our coach where I downloaded photos from our Sony alpha 100 SLR camera to my laptop computer while Linda downloaded photos from her Samsung Galaxy S III smartphone to her laptop computer and then onto her SKP flash drive.  I used Microsoft Image Composite Editor (ICE) to process the two panoramas I had photographed and then transferred everything to my SKP supplied flash drive.  We walked over to Lou and Val’s 5th wheel and visited for a while as Lou downloaded the photos from the flash drives and took a quick look at them.

We decided to take the long way back to our coach by walking through some of the campground areas we had not yet visited.  Thick clouds had moved in and the skies to the west were getting ominously dark.  Several people stopped us to let us know that possibly severe storms were headed our way portending damaging hail and wind gusts of 70 MPH.  We shortened our walk and headed back to our rig where we found Butch outside talking on his cell phone.  We put up the two awnings we had down for sun shade and stowed our chairs and end table.  High wind and awnings don’t mix well.  Butch and I chatted until the mosquitoes got bad and then retreated to our respective buses for the evening.

Panorama of EC4HFG horse track infield parking area.

Panorama of EC4HFG horse track infield parking area.

It got into the low 80’s today and the humidity was up with the approaching weather, so the coach interior was in the upper 80’s.  We were watching the approaching storms on our weather apps and the weather/radar sub-channel out of Ft. Wayne, Indiana.  It was a fairly aggressive system but showed signs of dividing and going around us to the north and south.  The rain eventually started, forcing us to close our ceiling vents and narrow our window openings.  Serious lightning developed and the rain intensified to the point where we had to close the large entrance door window and reduce the awning window openings to about an inch.  With a forecast of continued rain overnight and a low of only 65 degrees F we knew it would not be the best night for sleeping.  Still, I love storms and enjoyed seeing/hearing nature’s power while I worked on blog posts for yesterday and today.


2014/05/10 (S) Goin To Goshen

We were up at 6 AM with our sights set on a 7:30 AM departure.  Most of the supplies that still needed to be loaded onto the bus were staged in the front vestibule, on the dining room table, or the bathroom counter.  It took several trips to get everything on board, including the cats, but it was an easy final loading process.  We are getting better at this with practice but it certainly helped having the bus parked with the front door opposite the front door of the house.

With everything on board we did the final preparations on the car and bus, pulled the shore power cord, and stowed it away.  We finished closing up the house, checked the lights on the coach and car (they were all working), arranged a few things on the interior, and were ready to roll.

The cats had already sought the safety of their travel locations under the front passenger seat even before I sat done in the driver’s seat.  The big Detroit lit right up and as soon as the oil pressure came up I engaged the high idle to make it easier to build the air pressure and switched the suspension to drive mode.  When the air dryer “sneezed” (purge valve opened) I turned off the high idle, pulled up the tag axle (to shorten the turning radius), put it in gear, and pulled out of our driveway.  It was 7:30 AM.  We made our way up to M-59 and headed west.

It was a chilly morning, though not as cold as earlier in the week when I reset the tire pressures and the TPMS sensors.  I quickly discovered that I had cold air coming in by my feet and shortly thereafter realized that I forgot to open the air supply to the louvers for the air-conditioner compressor compartment behind the front bumper.  When the louvers are open that compartment allows outside air to get into the bay under the driver’s seat and from there into the cockpit, especially at highway speeds.  The louvers require air pressure to close and prevent this air intrusion.  Rather than pull into a business or shopping center I decided to continue on to I-96 west and stop at the rest area at mile marker 112 which would allow an easy off/on just before reaching the Lansing area.

As I suspected, the air supply to the louvers was closed.  I usually shut off this circuit when parked to minimize leaks and auxiliary air pressure run time, but this is (obviously) not part of my mental “to do” list yet.  Every trip I say we need to create written checklists, one for departure and one for arrival, but we get busy and never follow through; at least we haven’t yet.

From the rest area we continued on I-96 west along the southern edge of Lansing, picked up I-69 at the southwest corner of town, and headed south towards Indiana.  It was a downhill run from there, or so it seemed, as the pyrometers were often near the bottom of the scale.  We exited onto US-6 and headed west towards Goshen, Indiana.  We picked this route so we could pick up US-33 north and come into the Goshen area from the southeast.  Our initial destination was a Walmart supercenter at the southeast corner of town on the east side of US-33.  Our plan was to meet up with Butch and Fonda who were driving in from Twelve Mile, Indiana.  From there we would have a short, but slow, drive up US-33 into the heart of Goshen and then east on Monroe Street to the Elkhart County 4-H Fairground.  It’s only a few miles but it is slow because of the heavy traffic that always seems to be present on this high density commercial/retail stretch of a two-lane US highway.

The Walmart "stables" on  US-33 southeast of Goshen, IN.

The Walmart “stables” on US-33 southeast of Goshen, IN.

We were in phone contact with Butch and Fonda so we knew their departure was delayed by business and bus issues.  We arrived somewhat ahead of our agreed rendezvous time, and decided to wait for them at the Walmart as long as we could without getting uncomfortable about the possibility of not getting to the fairground before the 2 PM arrival cutoff.   We did some shopping, had a bite of lunch, took some photographs, and played some games on our iPads while we waited.  The Walmart had a “stable” for the Amish buggies and it was full, with additional buggies tied up to the fence line.  You just don’t see that most places, but this is one of the things that is uniquely interesting about north central Indiana.  Butch and Fonda eventually got on the road and were making good progress but we decided around 1:15 PM to go on to the fairgrounds and try to meet up with them there.  That meant they would not have to stop at the Walmart and incur additional time delay.

Like most rallies, the Escapade requires rigs that want to park together to arrive together.  They also want the rigs identified in some way as being together.  For small groups (four or less) they wanted matching ribbons tied to the driver-side mirror.  For larger groups they wanted the arrival planned in advance with a placard in the window of each rig that identified the group and the rig number, 1 of n, 2 n, etc.  Although the Escapade did not provide a rendezvous area the arrival rate had slowed down by the time we pulled in and they allowed us to unhook our car and wait for our friends, who pulled in not more than 10 minutes behind us.

We had a nice chat with the parking crew while we waited and found out that some of them were members of the SKP Chapter 6 – Great Lakes, which covers Michigan.  We joined the Chapter at the 2010 Escapade at this very same fairground but have not yet made any of the rallies.  Chapter 6 is one of the oldest chapters in the Escapees RV a Club and will celebrate its 30th anniversary at a Labor Day rally this year.  The rally will be in Michigan and perhaps we will be able to finally attend.

We were directed to our adjacent parking spots on the east side of the infield of the horse track and got backed in with the assistance of the parking crew.  The fairground was well prepared for RVs on parts of the property that are not set up as permanent RV sites.  Electrical cables emerged from manhole covers and ran to outlet boxes on the ground and temporary water manifolds were placed alongside the power lines.  We only connected the shore power for now, having arrived with a full fresh water tank.  I dialed back the charger section of our Magnum 4024 inverter/charger to an AC input of 25 Amps before connecting the power through to the coach.  This limited the amount of power the charger section would use, ensuring that adequate power would be available for other essential coach functions such as the refrigerator, auxiliary air compressor, lights, coffee maker, and television sets.

We put out our patio awning to shade the passenger side of the coach from the afternoon sun and sat around for a while enjoying a snack of pretzels and almonds along with a tasty adult beverage (us, not them).  Linda and Fonda went for a walk while Butch and I fell asleep.  We woke up hungry and eventually decided to go out to dinner.  We took our car and since I was driving I had to pick the restaurant.  We ended up at a Chinese buffet and all ate too much.  We were surprised to see a lot of Amish buggies tied up outside the restaurant and even more surprised to see so many Amish inside enjoying the buffet.  I thought it was actually pretty cool, just unexpected.  By the time we got back to our buses we were satiated and tired.  We retired to our respective coaches for the evening.


2014/05/09 (F) Rally Ready

Today was all about preparing for the Escapees RV Club Escapade.  Large rallies, like the Escapades, are week-long events with non-stop activity from sunrise to well after sunset.  We like to stick to our way of eating, but there isn’t as much time to prepare meals at such events, so Linda spent much of the day preparing and pre-cooking most of our dinner meals for the week. Breakfast and lunch tend to be simpler meals with less cooking involved.  Part of her cooking today, however, was her yummy granola which we will have for breakfast most mornings.

I spent a good part of the day working at my desk on e-mail, website, and blog tasks.  I took occasional breaks to select clothes and stage other items to load on the bus.  On an afternoon break I topped off the coolant in the Aqua-Hot and hooked the car to the motorcoach.

After dinner I wrapped up my desk work, shut down my computers, and staged all of the electronics that still needed to go on the bus.  We relaxed for a while in the evening and by bedtime we were comfortable with our level of preparation and, with only a small number of things left to do, confident of an early departure in the morning.


2014/05/08(R) Toad Lights

The spring peepers are in full voice this time of year, but they do not wear headlamps.  In fact, they are frogs, not toads.  In the world of RV’s a car that is towed behind a motorhome is often referred to as a “towed” (noun) or “toad.”  Like anything being towed, the car has to have functioning tail lights, brake lights, and turn signals.  The existing lights on the car are often used for this, but there can be issues with arrangement, especially on newer vehicles.

Our Honda Element came equipped with a second set of rear bulbs that are not tied into the cars lighting circuits.  On the way home from Florida they quit working.  Visual inspect had revealed that the 6-pin connector on the bus had a couple of damaged pins.  As soon as we got home I picked up a new connector from a local RV store.  With a forecast high temperature of 81 degrees F, and no rain, today was the day to install it; but not until I had taken care of another important chore.

Steve (N8AR) arrived a little after 10 AM pulling Bruce’s (W8RA) enclosed trailer.  We took a few minutes to look at my proposed site for the communications tower and then headed over to Wayne’s (KD8H) place to pick up the tower sections and related components I had purchased on Monday.  We got there right at 11AM.  Wayne greeted us in the driveway and directed us around behind the house.  We loaded the steel fold over mount, motor, rotator, and bearing plate in the front if the trailer and then drove back to where the tower sections were stored and loaded those in.  The trailer had about 10 feet inside, front-to-rear, and we were able to get everything in and close/latch the doors.  We were on our way back to my QTH by noon.  By 1 PM we had unloaded everything, stacked the tower sections on the rear/lower deck, and stored the other components in the garage.  I walked Steve through the proposed pole barn site and then he headed home to hang drywall.

I gathered up the tools I needed for the connector project and arrayed them at the rear of the bus.  Simple projects never are, and this was no exception.  I removed the two screws that hold the connector into the bumped fascia and the discovered that I could not pull it out more than a 1/4 inch.  The connector housing has an insert with the pins on one side (facing out) and the wire connections on the side (facing in).  The insert is retained by a small screw on the top of the housing.  To work on this assembly you have to be able to pull the housing out far enough to remove the retaining screw.  You then need to have enough loose wire behind the connector to allow the insert to come out the front of the housing far enough that you can get to the small machine screws that that hold the wires.

The problem was that I did not have the necessary amount of loose wire.  There was plenty of wire, it just wasn’t loose.  I had to clip about a half dozen zip ties in the engine compartment and along the underside of the rear bumper, and remove a cable clamp, but I eventually freed up enough wire to pull the connector housing out far enough to work on it.

The wire connections on the insert were not done in a standard way per the directions that came with the new connector, so I made a diagram of how they were done.  (I should have rewired both the bus connector and the cable end to be standard, but I plan to replace this whole setup with an EZ*Connector system this summer.)  I disconnected the wires, which freed the insert, and slid the old housing off the end of the wire bundle.  I cleaned up the ends of the four wires, stripping away 1/4 inch of insulation and trimming off frayed strands.  I slipped the new housing over the wires, made the connections to the back of the insert, slid the insert into the housing, and secured up it with the retaining screw.  I slid the housing back into the bumper fascia and secured it with the two screws.

Before dressing all the wires I pulled the car behind the bus and connected the electrical cable between them to test the lights.  I connected the bus chassis batteries (there are two switches for this) and turned on the left turn signal.  All the lights on the bus were fine, but I still did not have lights on the car.  🙁  I had also had problems previously with the plug and socket on the car so I jiggled the connector and the lights started working.  I verified that I had tail and turn lights but could not test the brake lights as that takes two people.  (I could have turned the ignition on and that would have caused the brake lights to come on since the emergency/parking brakes were set.)

I suspected the problem was in the connector on the end of the cable, but it was sufficiently corroded that I could not get it apart.  I decided to spray all of the old connectors (3) with De-Ox-It, including inside the cable ends.  I then sprayed all if the connectors, including the new ones, with De-Ox-It Gold.  I plugged the cable back in to the bus and the car and retested the lights.  Everything was working, so I secured the wiring on the bus with new zip ties, put my tools away, and closed everything up.

Sometime during the afternoon I got a call from Bruce (W8RA) and took a break from the electrical work.  He had a friend who had purchased a used full-size tractor to pull a large 5th wheel.  The tractor had a KVH Trac-Vision R5 in-motion satellite dish and the owner wanted Bruce to help him get it working.  Bruce knew we had a motorhome and thought I might have some insight into how to do this.  The only advice I could offer was based on the satellite dish and electronics that were on our bus when we bought it.  In addition to the dish on the roof and the receiver in the coach there was a third box that went in-between the two.  I suspected that the KVH had something similar, but I wasn’t sure.

Linda had been babysitting all day so we had an Amy’s Indian dish with a nice salad for dinner.  It had been a warm, physical day so I started a load of laundry and we just relaxed after dinner.


2014/05/07 (W) Plumbing

After breakfast Linda headed to Ann Arbor to babysit our younger grand-daughter.  I had a long list of things to do at my computer today, and planned to spend the day inside at home doing them.  I did not manage to do most of them as I ended up doing other things instead; so much for plans.

Wednesday is trash day (sorry, Prince Spaghetti), so I got the trash to the curb.  (I know, I know, how have I managed to arrange such an interesting life?)  A box of Bus Conversion Magazines arrived yesterday, so I opened it to check the contents and then e-mailed the publisher that all was well.

We do not have curbside recycling at the house the way we did in the previous one, so we have to take our recyclables to a drop-off center run by Recycle Livingston.  The center is open Wednesdays and Saturdays.  On her way out the door Linda reminded me that I had to take the recyclables to the center.  We keep a set of cardboard boxes on the floor in the pantry and sort our recyclables as they become available.  I loaded them in the car for later.

At some point in the past the shower diverter in the bathtub quit working, so that had been on my “to do” list for a while.  Coincidentally, while we were in Florida I had seen an episode of “Ask This Old House” that dealt with this exact repair!  I had to use a large pipe wrench to unscrew the old bathtub spout/diverter as the threads were corroded.  With the old diverter off I now had a fairly good idea of what I needed in the way of a replacement part.

I had been putting off fixing the leaky dishwasher fresh water connection but today was finally the day to tackle that project.  As I was thinking about heading to the recycle center, and then to Lowe’s for plumbing parts, I got a call from Steve at Village Landscape Development (VLD).  He wanted to swing by and go over the front stairs and rear retaining wall projects again and get us on his schedule.  We agreed on 1 PM.  It was 11:30 AM, so I had just enough time to drop off the recyclables and get a new diverter from Lowe’s.

Steve (VLD) came by and we walked through the two projects.  We were on the same page and settled on tentative start and completion dates, so we signed an agreement and I gave him a deposit.  After he left, I called Wayne (KD8H), set up to get the tower tomorrow at 11:00 AM, and then e-mailed Steve (N8AR) to let him know the date/time.  He had permission to use Bruce’s (W8RA) closed trailer to help me with the tower.

Back at the dishwasher I turned the water supply on and the connection didn’t just drip, it spurted.  I redid the connection with pipe thread compound instead of Teflon tape but it did not help at all.  I tried tightening it and it got worse.  It was clearly time to rethink my approach.

I find that a good way to rethink my approach to a problem is to do something else, so I installed the new diverter for the bathtub/shower in the hall bathroom.  It only needed to be threaded on hand tight as it is not a pressurized fitting.  Water either flows out the spout into the tub or gets blocked and forced (diverted) up to the shower head; a pretty simple device, really.  It was not quite the right length and left a 1/2 inch gap between the base and the wall tile.  At least this way I could see if any water was leaking out the back end.  🙂  It wasn’t, so I let it go for now.

I returned to the dishwasher problem and took another look.  It appeared that the rubber seal (O-ring) in the end of the hose may have gotten nicked or mis-shapen, perhaps from over tightening.  There was no indication of a leak between the 90 degree elbow and the dishwasher inlet.

I headed back to Lowe’s for a new 8’ dishwasher connection hose.  I could not purchase just the hose; it only came as a kit with the 90 degree elbow and another adapter, which turned out to be fortuitous.  I noticed that the instructions did not call for Teflon tape or pipe thread compound and I verified that with the associate in plumbing.  I also picked up a decorative filler plate for the diverter.

The flexible water line connects to the lower left front corner of the dishwasher, loops underneath the unit, goes through a hole in the adjacent cabinet at the lower left rear, goes through the other side of that cabinet into the space under the corner sink cabinet bottom, and finally emerges through a hole in the floor of the cabinet along with a water pipe.  The only way to run the new flexible line, without removing the dishwasher and disassembling cabinets, was to attach one end of the new line to the dishwasher end of the old line and use the old line to pull it through.  Zip ties have lots of uses, and this is one of them.

Before making any connections I read the instructions again.  The connections at the end of the hose were to be “finger tight plus 1/4 turn.”  Although “finger tight” is an incredibly imprecise term–some number of inch-pounds would be precise–these directions clearly indicated that over tightening was a bad thing to do.  I connected the line at both ends following the directions as best I could and opened the supply valve a little.  No more spurting but I still had a drip leak and shut off the water supply.  I knew the hose was OK so it had to be the elbow.  I had to pull the dishwasher part way out to get to the 90 degree elbow.  (This why I installed an 8 foot hose.)  After I got it out I examined it and did not see any obvious thread damage or cracks, but there was some pitting and one pit in particular looked like it might be a through pinhole.  No matter, it was trash.

I installed the new elbow using pipe thread compound on the male NPT pipe threads that go into the female NPT fitting on the dishwasher.  These kinds of fittings are always a bit tricky.  They have to be tight enough to not leak, without overdoing it, and they have to be oriented a certain way to allow something else to connect to them; in this case the supply hose.  I reattached the flexible hose, turned on the water supply, and voilà, no leaks!  As long as I was on a roll I unscrewed the bathtub diverter, slipped the decorative spacer over the pipe, and screwed the diverter back on, lining it up carefully with the spacer and getting it snug but properly aligned.  Even though it took most of the afternoon I had successfully completed two plumbing jobs in one day.


2014/05/06 (T) RESA Redux

While we were in Florida I spent a little time working on an extension of a project I was deeply involved in the couple of years prior to my retirement.  The Michigan Assessment Consortium (MAC), of which I was a founding board member, sponsored the development of a series of modules for educators on how to develop and use “common assessments.”  “Common” in this case meant “shared across multiple classrooms/teachers,” as opposed to other meanings, such as “ordinary” or “numerous.”  The 24 modules were developed as scripted PowerPoint presentations with learning activities and supporting materials.  They were field tested in a workshop setting and revised based on participant feedback and the experience of the presenters.  The modules were then videotaped at Wayne RESA, with each of the development team members narrating the modules on which they were the lead author.  The videotaped modules, along with the PowerPoint files and supporting materials were made available online through MI-StreamNet free of charge.

There has been a continuing interest in this professional development series but recent changes in the rules for continuing education units (CEUs) required that the modules be repackaged in order to qualify.  Wayne RESA made a decision a few years ago to train some staff members in the Lectora software for creating online courses.  Some staff time became available and RESA approached the MAC and suggested the use of Lectora to repackage the assessment modules to meet the new CEU requirements.  One of those requirements was for assessments that validate the learner’s engagement with the content.  The existing modules did not include such assessments so the original authors were contacted to see if they would develop test items for their modules.  That is how I came to spend some time this winter writing test items.

Kathy Dewsbury-White, the President of the MAC, had arranged to meet today with Ken Schramm (Manager of TV & Media Production) and Bill Heldmyer, TV Producer/Director extraordinaire) to discuss the project.  She asked me to come along, and that is how I came to spend the day at Wayne RESA, from which I retired in June 2012.  There was a MAC sponsored video conference at 10 AM so while Kathy attended to that I roamed the halls of my former place of employment to see who was around.  All told I was able to visit briefly with a dozen or more people and with another half dozen a little longer.  When the video conference was over we grabbed lunch with Ken.  When we got back to RESA we worked with Bill in his editing suite on how we wanted certain aspects of the modules to work.  Kathy and I then worked our way back to Brighton through the afternoon rush hour traffic.

I talked to Butch (W9MCI) on the phone in the evening.  He had spoken directly to International Thermal Research about their Oasis brand hydronic heating systems and gotten some pricing.  There is a real possibility that our rebuilt Aqua-Hot hydronic heating unit in our motorcoach may have a coolant leak and that the leak is in the combustion chamber.  The evidence for this is an excessive amount of white smoke when the units fires up, if it fires up.  If so, it cannot be field repaired and we would have to get a rebuilt unit to replace the failed rebuilt unit, or get a new unit.  At this point my inclination would be to get a new unit from a different company, like maybe ITR.  I have a low tolerance for the repeated failure of expensive engineered systems.


2014/05/05 (M) Towering Heights

It dropped into the upper 30’s early this morning.  Although I did not really want to go outside and work, it was the perfect time to adjust the pressures in the bus tires and reset the baseline pressures on the Pressure Pro TPMS.  I had a 10 AM service appointment for my car and wanted to take care of the bus tires before the air temperature warmed up or some of the tires sat in the sun.

I took the Honda Element to Brighton Honda for the 85,000 mile service which consisted of an oil change and multi-point inspection.  A quick trip to Best Buy to look for a case for my new ASUS laptop computer did not result in a usable case but I did discover a new Logitech mouse, the T630; very thin and stylish but unfortunately not in stock.  They printed out a sheet for me to take along.

I called Wayne (KD8H) and arranged to go see the Heights Tower he had for sale at 2 PM.  Mike (W8XH) came along to help me inspect it.  Mike has a Heights Tower so he is very familiar with them.  The tower was already down and disassembled into sections that were stored horizontally on saw horses.  The fold-over mount (FOM) was made of steel rather than aluminum and was rusty but very substantial.  Wayne had the motor for the FOM but no longer had the threaded rod.  The top tower sections had the mounting plate for a Ham II rotator and the bearing plate for the rotating mast.  He also had the Ham II rotator, and was willing to include that in the deal.  I wrote him a check and arranged to come back later in the week with a truck or trailer to pick everything up.  After I dropped Mike back at his QTH and returned home I e-mailed several SLAARC members to see if they might be have a truck and/or trailer and time to help me retrieve the tower parts.

I had been doing research on cases for the ASUS G750 series (ROG) laptop computer and found two on Amazon Prime from Everki that looked promising as they were designed to hold up to an 18.5 inch (diagonal) computer.  The Advanced was a padded top-load zipper case with a slender front zipper pocket.  The Lunar was also a padded top-load zipper case but had a larger zippered front pouch and a slender zipper pocket in front of that.  It also had a slot across the back that allowed it to be placed over the extended handle of a roller case.  The Lunar was 3x the price of the Advanced, but the Lunar looked like it would better accommodate the AC power adapter and other accessories I tend to haul around.  I had checked the ASUS ROG forum (Republic of Gamers) previously and the general opinion was that these two cases were both of good quality and big enough to hold my computer and related stuff.  I ordered one for delivery on Wednesday (2-day), no extra charge with Amazon Prime.


2014/05/04 (N) Northwest Winds

The weather yesterday was mostly cloudy with occasional light rain and the winds came up strong starting in the afternoon.  They tapered off by bedtime but resumed a hard blow this morning with low, puffy, white clouds streaming in from the northwest and making the trees dance.  It was a brighter morning than we have had most of the week as the sun played hide-n-seek with the clouds.  The temperature remained cool, making for a brisk day, but it was a nice change from the cool, overcast dreariness of the past week.  Except for Thursday, when the high temperature is supposed to hit 80, the daily high temps will be around 60 all week.

Linda made her scrumptious blueberry pancakes for breakfast and then went for a walk.  She had barely left the house when she returned, very excited, to tell me she had just seen a young albino deer running through our yard.  By the time I got outside it had moved on to the woods west of our property.  We often see the same deer day-after-day as they travel their circuit, so I also hope to see this one someday.

After checking in on the blogs I follow using the Feedly app on my iPad2 I made a couple of corrections to a recent blog post, approved a comment from our daughter-in-law (the first one has to be approved), and deleted the 59 spam comments that the Akismet plug-in/service trapped since last night.  I put a load of laundry in the washer and then spent some time looking online for a padded case for my new laptop computer and a replacement for one of our APC SmartUPS units that has failed.

With the move to tablet computers, the choice of laptops is diminishing, especially those with larger screens, and along with that fewer choices for accessories such as cases.  In the past 14 years I have always purchased larger roller cases, with separate cases for the computer that fit inside, as my laptop traveled with me every day everywhere I went.  I had the most recent of these cases with us in Florida and, after getting the computer/case and accessories out of it, I stored it in a closet (where it tended to be in the way).  The next time I touched it was when I unloaded it from the bus to bring back into the house.

It was clear from that experience that I do not need another roller case.  I do, however, want something that will protect my new laptop computer.  I think I have narrowed the choice down to the Everki Advanced or the Everki Lunar, both available through Amazon Prime.  The Advanced is very reasonably priced at under $40 and has generally favorable reviews, mentioning the ASUS “Republic of Gamers” (ROG) models in particular.  The Lunar has more storage space, and also has generally favorable reviews, but is over three times the price at just under $130.  Posts on the ASUS ROG Forum seem to favor one of the Everki backpack models, but I do not want a backpack style case.

Our failed APC uninterruptible power supply is a Smart-UPS SUA1000.  By trading it in on a SMT1000 we can save $75 off the retail price.  I need to confirm that the discounted price includes return shipping; the SUA1000 weighs 48 pounds.

I revised the RVillage Quick Start doc I created for the GLCC, CCO, and FTH RV clubs, making it generic for use by Bus Conversion Magazine or anyone else.  I then uploaded it to a new RVillage page on our website and revised a couple of other pages to link to the new one.  I then uploaded blog posts for the last three days.  I set up my new laptop in my office and installed seven more updates.

At breakfast yesterday I got a tip from Paul (N8BHT) on a used tower.  He e-mailed me the owner’s contact information later.  I called the owner, Wayne (KD8H), this afternoon and got a little more information about the tower.  It is an aluminum Heights Tower, 80 feet, with Fold-Over Kit (FOK) including the drive motor, a rotator and antenna mounting plate.  It is already on the ground and disassembled into sections.  Wayne is retired and I will likely go look at the tower tomorrow afternoon.  I e-mailed Paul (N8BHT), Mike (W8XH), and Steve (N8AR) to see if they were available to go with me.

Linda made lentil loaf for dinner with baked yams and fresh asparagus.  After dinner I drove to South Lyon for the May meeting of the South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club.  SLAARC usually meets on the 2nd Sunday of the month but pulls the May meetings forward a week to avoid Mother’s Day.  Our topic of discussion this evening was the upcoming ARRL Field Day operating event, which takes place the last full weekend in June.  We had a couple of new hams at the meeting and afterwards several of the guys helped Christine, KD8VEA, get the PL tone set correctly on her radio so she was able to participate in a group QSO with Steve (N8AR), Mike (W8XH), Fred (AC8VL), and myself on the drive home.  In spite of what many people think, including some older/former hams, amateur radio is alive and well in the North America and all over the world.


2014/05/03 (S) Ham It Up

Today started with breakfast out and felt like we were finally starting to get back into the flow.  We drove to South Lyon for the Saturday morning breakfast gathering of our South Lyon Area Amateur Radio Club, as we do almost every Saturday morning when we at the house.  Steve (N8AR) gave me a lead on someone who might be willing to build our pole barn.  After breakfast we returned home and I walked Linda through the project I discussed yesterday with Steve for redoing the rear basement walkout retaining walls, drainage, and yard grading.

I worked on our blog and Linda worked on lunch preparations while we awaited the arrival of our daughter and son-in-law.  They have had Linda’s Honda Civic Hybrid since December and were returning it, so they drove two cars.  Linda got to visit with them in late February / early March, but I had not seen them since mid December.  We had a nice lunch of mixed greens salad and vegan Sloppy Joe’s with sweet gherkin pickles on the side.  Fresh strawberries and carrot cake cookies provided a sweet ending to the meal.  We had a nice visit.

Steve from Village Landscaping Development stopped by with a brochure, business card, and the project proposal written up on a more official estimating form.  We will take a few days to think about, but it’s a very good proposal and I am 99% certain we will hire him to do this work.  It would be nice to get it done in late May to early June, between The SKP Escapade and the GLAMARAMA rallies, but it may not be dry enough by then.  If not, it will have to wait until early July after we return from the installation ceremonies for Linda’s sister who is assuming one of the top leadership positions in the St. Louis Province of the Congregation (Sisters) of St. Joseph.

A little later Phil Jarrel, from Best Precision Grading, came by to take a second look at the site preparation and grading work for the pole barn.  We walked the site and agreed that I could/should change the orientation of the building just a bit from where it is currently staked.  We also discussed how to make sure the barn was located behind the front line of the house and talked through the permitting and construction process.  He did not have any builders to recommend, but he did recommend a concrete contractor for the pit and floor.

We did quite a few construction projects at the previous house over the years but the pole barn involves elements that are new to me, and I now have to deal with a Township for a land use permit and the County for building and grading permits.  I am fairly set on the size, location, and basic design/materials, but we not have settled on a builder or materials supplier.  Consequently, we still do not have an accurate total cost estimate.  Until everything is in place, and the cost is known, nothing can move forward.  Meanwhile, the days keep flipping over on the calendar.


2014/05/02 (F) A Day At Home

Linda went into the bakery today so she was up early and left at 6:30 AM to get ahead of the worst of the morning rush hour traffic headed into Detroit from the northwest.  She took my new laptop to have some critical software installed.  With the 17″ screen, the computer does not fit in any of our existing padded carry cases, so that is an accessory I will need to get.  I also have my eye on an external BluRay/DVD/CD optical media drive (read/write).  The BluRay disks will store anywhere from 25 to 45 GB of data which is more practical that CDs or DVDs for non-volatile /off-site storage of photographs and critical documents.

We only have one car at the moment, so I was stuck at home today (I don’t use the motorcoach to run errands).  Being stuck at home on a chilly, overcast, rainy day is not necessarily a bad thing.  After a light breakfast and my morning coffee I started a load of laundry and worked at my desk for a while.

I took a break from desk work and opened the front of one of our APC Smart UPS units that had died while we were away.  I had replaced batteries in a couple of these units but could not recall if this was one of them.  It was not.  When I opened the batter compartment I found the batteries badly swollen and I was unable to remove them from the case.  The tags on them indicated that they were from 2010.  The only thing I can think of that would have caused this was a failure in the battery charging circuit which continued to charge the batteries after they were already fully charged.  That would cause them to gas and swell as they are sealed AGM batteries.  We were probably lucky they did not explode.  Given this situation I will replace the whole UPS rather than put new batteries in it.  APC usually offers a trade-in allowance (called Trade-Ups) for the same or larger UPS.  Otherwise I have to dispose of the whole thing as electronic hazardous waste.

Steve Degenais of Village Landscape Development stopped by mid-morning to discuss two separate projects:  1) stairs to get from the pull-thru driveway to the front porch, and;  2) redoing the retaining walls on either side of the basement walkout.

When we bought the house last year it had a makeshift pull-thru driveway and no stairs or pathway to the front porch, which is the main entrance to the house.  The previous owners used the Florida room, which is just an enclosed patio slab between the house and the garage, as an entry/breezeway.  It was empty and they left it unlocked, entering the house through a door to the kitchen that locked.  We use the Florida room as a library, so we do not leave it open.  We also had the pull-thru driveway substantially improved last spring so we can park our bus with the entrance door opposite the front door of the house.  Carrying things back and forth between the house and the bus on a steep grassy slope is an accident waiting to happen.  There is a four foot drop in 18 feet from the front porch to the driveway and we need a proper set of stairs.

Although we have a walkout basement, the house is not set into the side of a hill.  If you walk around the house it appears to sit on top of a mound.  It appears that dirt was piled around the basement walls, except by the walkout, and graded away from house, more or less.  In the back it slopes in towards the walkout.  There are remnants of an old railroad tie retaining wall and it appears that sometime later someone tried to stabilize the two slopes with plastic held in place with small boulders, pieces of cinder block, used bricks, and whatever else was handy to throw in there.  That apparently wasn’t working very well so they built two retaining walls, each about seven courses high (~3 ft), with blocks meant for decorative edging of plant beds.  It’s also clear that they did not make any provision for water drainage behind the walls and yet two downspouts from the roof gutter system discharged into these areas before I used corrugated plastic pipe to carry the water away from the house.  The pipes are still there, sitting on the surface right where I put them last spring. The earth behind the walls has obviously moved over time and the walls are buckling in places.  Mud pushes through and around them.  It’s not pretty on several levels.

Our sump pump runs quite a bit in the spring and we need to get rainwater away from the foundation as much as possible.  Drainage and stabilization of the slopes are my primary concern but I always care about aesthetics.  Steve and I discussed an approach using small boulders to make low retaining walls backed with fabric and drain pipes to capture and drain the water far out into the yard.  The slopes would be re-graded to provide runoff away from the house, covered with landscape fabric, and then covered with small boulders and “egg rock.”  The drain lines would all be buried and run to an exit point far out in the yard.

I spent much of the rest of the day working on our website and blog with the help of our cats, who were a bit needier than usual following their visit to the veterinarian yesterday.  Sometime during the day a package arrived from Amazon.  On Wednesday we ordered an Amped|Wireless SR20000G (wireless router/repeater/access point) to replace the one Mike (W8XH) gave us just before we left for Florida.  The SR20000G worked very well for us in our bus and is now a permanent part of our on-board communications technology arsenal.  We ordered it through Amazon Prime and had it in two days; no extra charge for shipping.

Linda picked up some groceries on her way home from the bakery and we had a simple dinner consisting of a very tasty spinach salad and an Amy’s Roasted Vegetable Pizza.  After dinner she worked on food for tomorrow’s visit with our daughter and son-in-law.  She made her fabulous vegan Sloppy Joe’s and carrot cake cookies while I worked with my new notebook computer.  Updates were available and I had to “update and restart” the machine six times before there were no more updates to install.  There were 24+5+20+4+8+10 = 71 updates in all.  Allen, the computer sales associate at Best Buy, had alerted me to the fact that once I activated the machine there would be quite a few updates, so this was not unexpected.


2014/05/01 (R) A Month Behind

This was our fourth day back at the house and it felt like I was already a month behind.  That may be partly due to the fact that the change of seasons seems to be delayed by that much here in southeast Michigan.  But it mostly had to do with the notepad sitting to my right that is filling up with things to do much faster than I am getting them done.  Although that is to be expected it is still a bit disheartening.  Some of them are short, simple tasks, but even things like calling or e-mailing someone are often open-ended exchanges.  Others are major projects that I will be working on, and writing about, well into the fall.

Today’s big errand was taking our two cats, Jasper and Juniper, to the veterinarian for checkups and shots.  They were due for these in February, but we were in Florida at the time and so were the cats.  They saw Dr. Carron from Plaza Veterinary today.  He and his staff have seen to the health needs of all of our pets for the last 30+ years.

We have not changed any of our professional service providers since moving last year.  Doctors, dentist, optometrist, and veterinarian are now all located 30 – 60 miles away, but we have used these providers for many years and are comfortable with them.  Since we typically see them at most twice a year we do not mind the additional driving distance and time as long as we can schedule appointments for nice times of the year and at nice times of the day.  Why drive in rush hour and/or bad (snowy) weather, after all, if we do not have to?  And we do not have to.

We do most of our shopping in Brighton and Howell, except for items we can only get from Whole Foods Market, and are having our two Honda automobiles serviced locally by the dealership in Brighton.  While automotive service facilities are not necessarily interchangeable we have found Honda service departments generally provide competent service wherever they are located.

On the way back from the veterinarian we took the new Latson Road exit off of I-96 and headed north a short way to the intersection with Grand River Avenue where Teeko’s Coffee is located in the strip mall on the NE corner.  Jeff had roasted four pounds of coffee for us on Tuesday for pickup today.  I chatted with him while he divided up the batches into 1/2 pound amounts and vacuum sealed them.  We try to order the coffee a couple of days ahead so he can let it “out-gas” before bagging it.  He plans to get bags with one-way valves, like you find most packaged coffee, and that will eliminate the need to wait a day or so for the out-gassing to subside.

Back at the house Linda dove in to organizing household paperwork while I made calls to various contractors and then worked on computer/e-mail/website tasks, including an RVillage quick start guide for Bus Conversion Magazine.  After dinner I unloaded the car so Linda could take it to the bakery tomorrow.  Our daughter still has Linda’s car from the winter and we will get it back (temporarily) when we see them on Saturday.